Peruvian Beer Revolution: Cusco Cusco / Peru

Throughout my second trip to Peru I was frequently caught complaining about the lack of variety of types of beer in Peru. I mean, not that that stopped me from drinking the beer, but sorry Peru, your beer just wasn’t great.

Peru Beer Revolution Cusco PinLet’s get one thing straight, pre-2014 basically the only beer options in Peru were Cusquea, Pilsen, Cristal, Trujillo and some others with different names but basically the same watery lager taste. For comparison purposes these beers are all equivalent to Budweiser, Molson Canadian, Coors or Miller (which Peru just started importing). To be fair, Cusquea does have 4 different types: wheat, red, regular and black. The black is the sweetest beer you can imagine and I just can’t get past the first sip. The red and wheat are pretty good, but again fairly watered down.

Then something spectacular happened, between ending my trip in April 2014 and returning to live in Peru in May 2015, craft beer had reached Peru. Well, I’m sure the workings were well under way before then but I didn’t see the fruits of that labor until I returned.

During my time back in Canada I had been working at a large microbrewery in Toronto that was frequently experimenting with all sorts of beer types and flavour combinations, my favourites were always the saisons and farmhouse ales made with Brett yeasts. I was pretty sad to be leaving my extreme variety of beer to go back to the watery crap in Peru.

So when I first discovered the craft beers in Cusco I was in shock and awe. I’m not going to lie, I half expected them to be terrible, but thankfully there were amazing. Sadly, a lot of the craft beers are pretty pricey, for Peru, being equivalent to the price of a pint back home.

Limbus Resto Bar

We discovered the best hidden bar that served pints for 10 soles ($4 CDN) and pitchers for 30 soles ($12 CDN). We only found out about it because we were walking home and noticed someone carrying kegs, regular Peruvian beer does not come in kegs. So they guy heard us talking about it and told us where to go get this beer.

Limbus Resto Baris hard to find as it is hidden in San Blas and has the absolute best view of Cusco, day or night. To get to it, just find the Mirador San Blas and enter off the side street where the word Limbus is in bright blue. This place has everything, great cocktails and a full menu. Just don’t be food by the ‘tabuleh’ that comes with the wings. To them tabuleh is raw carrots and celery. But it is one of the few places you can actually get wings in Cusco.

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Some friends enjoying the wonderful beer and great view at Limbus

It is a great spot that not many tourists even know about. You’ll generally see more Peruvians there, but the best part is the beer. The artisanal beer is not on the menu and they only keep 2 kinds on tap, so you just have to ask for it. The only serve beer from the Cervezeria Zenith there, but it’s fantastic.

Cerveza Zenith

This place makes great beers. We tried it in a few places around Cusco, mainly at Limbus, but they also have it sometimes at Paddy’s Pub, KM 0, Norton’s and a few other places. Zenith was the first discovery of craft beers in Cusco for me. So I thought, this is great, I wonder if they have a brewery to go and have a beer at. And they do! But it is currently only open on Fridays and Saturdays from 5 – 10PM.

Photo from https://cervezazenith.wordpress.com

Photo from https://cervezazenith.wordpress.com

The brewery, or tasting room as they call it, is right by the big new mall called Real Plaza. But if you’re not up for taking a taxi, you can catch the bus called Arco-Iris at Ayachuco and Av. el Sol or on Av. Cultura and get off at the stop called colegio on Av. Collasuyu, it will cost you 0.70 soles.

Pints at the tasting room are 10 soles and they have a rotating selection of beer to try alongside their regular stout and pale ale. I’m not a huge fan of stouts normally but their oatmeal and quinoa stout is fantastic. The owner is an Aussie and his Peruvian wife. It’s a small family run place and their passion for what they do comes through strong when you meet them and try their products.

Cerveceria del Valle Sagrado

The other Cusco area native is the beer from the Cerveceria del Valle Sagrado. This brewery has a large production potential than Cerveza Zenith and they have a greater selection of beers. The Sacred Valley Brewing Co. (in English) feels more like a typical microbrewery you’d find in the states. It is run by 4 foreigners who have been working hard to make this brewery a reality, and they’re doing a great job.

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When you actually go to the brewery they have 6 different beers on tap to try, you can get little tasters for 1 sole each, half pints for 6 soles or a full pint for 10 soles. It’s a great price for some great beers. And it is evident that the locals are discovering and loving this beer as well, as the place is generally filled with locals when you arrive.

Getting to the Sacred Valley brewery is a little more difficult and needs planning as it is not actually in Cusco. It is just before Ollantaytambo and you can get the bus from Cusco and get off at the stop called Puente Pachar. To get the bus in Cusco, go to Av Pavitos and Av. Miguel Grau. The ride is usually around 10 soles each way. The brewery is open Friday – Sunday from 2 – 7PM.

Be sure to bring food with you though! Their food selection is limited to empanadas, when they have them. And because of the isolated location there are no little tiendas or anything else nearby to buy a snack. Drinking beer and a lack of food can be a dangerous combination.

Cholos Craft Beers Cusco

Another hidden location that serves some great beers is Cholos. It is tucked away behind a hostel that you have to walk through their courtyard, grassy area and to the back left you’ll see the sign for Cholos. The entrance is on Calle Palacio. If you are walking from the Plaza de Armas to the 12 angle stone, it’s the street just before the pedestrian walk way, to the left.

Photo from http://www.key2cusco.com/photo/cholos-bar-4/

Photo from http://www.key2cusco.com/photo/cholos-bar-4/

This bar only sells craft beers from Peru, and some other imported beers. There are no mixed drinks or wine options for those who don’t like beer. They have a fair number of beers on tap and a huge selection of bottles. There are a ton of microbreweries popping up in Lima who are making some great beers and this is the best spot to try them all.

The bottles are a bit expensive for their size, but the market is new and prices haven’t come down yet. As a foreigner they can be considered affordable as it’s basically the same as getting a beer at home, but when you consider prices in Peru, they seem like a bit much, in my opinion. Pints can be 12 – 18 soles depending on the beer. I had an amazing British Pale Ale from Andean Nuevo on tap here. The bar has a nice atmosphere and serves pizza.